Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Creative Zen Mozaic 4GB
Could be better designed
- FM radio, built-in microphone, built-in speaker, can be used effectively as an alarm clock
- Its design makes it uncomfortable to use, its buttons sometimes need more than one push to work
We love the functionality of this player, but its design isn't particularly good. We much prefer the bigger Zen to the Zen Mozaic.
Price$ 129.95 (AUD)
We're fans of Creative's Zen (2GB) digital media player. It's easy to use, looks good and it's versatile. However, the latest model in the flash-based Zen range, the 4GB Mozaic, is only one of those things: versatile.
The unit is only around 6cm by 3cm and has a 1.8in colour screen. It looks cramped when displaying the player's menu system, let alone videos. We think Creative should have stuck with the layout of the Zen player, which has the player control buttons to the right of the screen and a display that is bigger horizontally than it is vertically. With the Mozaic, the screen is bigger vertically than it is horizontally, and it sits above the control buttons.
It's uncomfortable to use because of this layout, and also because the headphone port is located at the bottom of the unit, rather than at the top. This makes the player that little bit harder to hold with one hand while pressing the buttons. Furthermore, the player's control buttons, which are laid out in a mosaic fashion (lending the player its name), sometimes required two presses to perform their task.
Apart from the player's physical design, the Mozaic is top notch. It has a stack of features that aren't to be scoffed at, including an FM tuner and a microphone. Granted, the latter isn't very good for recording audio at music festivals, but it comes in handy when mucking around with friends or recording an interview. The FM tuner is what we like to call a fall-back function, for when you've forgotten to change the player's music the night before and want to hear something different. Of course, depending on your station preference, you'll probably end up hearing the same stuff over and over again anyway. You can also view JPEG photos and videos (which won't look good on the small screen), but you'll have to convert your videos using the supplied software before they can be watched.
The most interesting feature of the Mozaic is its built-in speaker, which will give school kids across Australia yet another way to annoy fellow commuters on morning bus rides (to the kids on the 392, I enjoy 2Pac!). Creative has included it as a way to share music with family and friends without plugging in speakers, and it's surprisingly loud and clear for such a small speaker. It could feasibly be used to listen to music in a hotel room, for example. But the speaker's best use is as an alarm clock. You can wake up to the radio, or to 'any track'. Too bad if you've got some soft Enya-style music on your player instead of Rage Against the Machine-style music and you end up sleeping through it. [Too bad if there's Enya-style music on there at all — Ed.]
As a standard music player, the Mozaic is a joy to listen to, especially if you pair it with a good set of headphones (although the ones that come with it are not too bad). You can manipulate the equaliser settings to tailor the sound to your taste, and you can also select from standard and random play modes. We love the 'album of the day' feature, which can be invoked by pressing the shortcut button on the player (as long as you set it up to perform this function).
The Mozaic uses the same menu interface as the Zen, but it feels more sluggish; the 'removable disk' item has been left in, even though the Mozaic doesn't have an expansion slot. Overall, it's easy to use, but some of the settings can be hard to find: the alarm clock is in the system menu, instead of the organiser menu, and the clock settings can't be changed easily from the extras menu (which has a picture of a clock), but also must be changed from the system menu.
Still, for $130 the Mozaic is worth the money. It should primarily be used as a music player, but if you can put up with its small screen then you can also view photos and videos while you commute. We do wish its design was horizontal rather than vertical, because the size of the player makes its controls hard to use.
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